Dayo Odeyingbo Learning How To Use Length To Help Colts Pass Rush

Odeyingbo, the Colts' second-round pick in 2021, just wrapped up his first true training camp in the NFL. 

Dayo Odeyingbo

Only 21 defensive ends drafted since 1999 have had longer arms than Dayo Odeyingbo, whose limbs stretch 35 1/4 inches out from his body (that's almost three feet). His wingspan measured in the 99th percentile for edge rushers in the last two decades, according to Mockdraftable.com.

So the Colts' message to Odeyingbo over the last month in training camp: You have remarkable length. Use it.

This is Odeyingbo's first preseason in which he's participated in practice – last year he was sidelined as he rehabbed from a torn Achilles' sustained while training for the 2021 Senior Bowl. He started off camp trying out a handful of things with his pass rush – "Youtube moves," defensive line coach Nate Ollie joked with him – but lately has focused his preparation and practice work on developing his power moves.

And Odeyingbo certainly has the length and strength to be a powerful pass rusher.

"It's not always pretty," Ollie said, "but you put the numbers up."

Because of his arm length, Odeyingbo is usually able to make contact with an offensive lineman before the O-lineman makes contact with him. That gives him an early edge once the ball is snapped.

"The person who makes contact first generally establishes control early in the rush," Odeyingbo said.

From there, Odeyingbo can do a number of things once he establishes control: He can manipulate his opponent with his hands, shed their block, drive them upfield with power or get them off balance with speed. And because linemen generally can't get their hands on Odeyingbo's shoulder pads – again, because of his length – he's able to disengage with a block and crash toward the quarterback.

"It's just him learning, use my length," Ollie said. "Use your stab moves. You're big, 275 (pounds), don't be afraid to use some power. And if you want to work your cross chop, you can set it up all off that. You can't go try to be a speed rusher and then try to work power.

"(Yannick Ngakoue's) a faster guy so he can work speed, speed, speed and then power. Yan can do that. But (Odeyingbo's) got to work power, power, power and if you want to work some other move, then you can do it. But use your length to your advantage."

So while Odeyingbo is working on making power rushes his fastball, he needs a changeup, too – speed, a cross-chop, something like that so linemen can't just sit on one move.

"You have to kind of marry moves together and set moves up, play the chess game," Odeyingbo said. "As opposed to college where you could kind of throw the same move or throw one thing over and over and then it'll work."

The results in games so far have been encouraging: Odeyingbo has two sacks and 10 pressures, the latter of which is the second-highest total in the NFL through two preseason games. The work Odeyingbo has focused on at Grand Park showed up in NFL stadiums the last two weeks.

"He's a hard worker," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "He does the extra work after practice, he's always out here working on his game and discovering the type of pass rusher he is. Using his length when he needs to and obviously he has that quickness off the edge as well.

"You saw it in this past game when he got his second sack off the edge. For a big guy, as athletic as he is, he's still learning how to piece everything together obviously with his first training camp and we've definitely seen the progress with him from the start of camp to now."

A lot of things were new for Odeyingbo during training camp – beyond playing in a new, attacking-oriented scheme under Ollie and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.

Because Odeyingbo returned in the middle of last season, he said he was focused first on doing his job and being in the right place, and then on making plays. And he was still working his way back from the Achilles' injury, too – playing last year, in a way, was a part of the recovery process.

Odeyingbo, now, is a year and a half out from the Achilles' injury, has a focus on what to work on in practice and experienced how to handle the daily grind of an NFL season. He's not setting any specific goals for 2022 – that's not his style – but expects to be able to contribute to the pass rush the Colts expect to be a cornerstone of their defense this season.

"I've tried to be more of a process-oriented person rather than a goal-driven person," Odeyingbo said. "For me, it's more about getting better every day and being the best version of myself, rather than trying to set a specific number that I'm trying to get to and try to do whatever I can to get to that number. I'm trying to make myself the best player I can be for the team for now, for this year and for the future."

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